On April 23, 1995 the bay area newspaper headlines read like this:
“Raiders pick Kaufman at number 18, ignore Heisman winner. “
On draft day he was quoted in Mike Taylor’s column as saying, “I can’t explain how excited I am. Being from California and growing up watching the Raiders every weekend. This definitely means a lot to me, and I”m ready to play. This is great! The Raiders are perfect situation for me.”
His Rookie year of 1995 saw Napoleon see action in all sixteen games as a reserve running back. He also performed well as a kick off return specialist breaking an 84 – yard run for a touchdown against the Colts.
In 1997 he began where he left off the year before, again leading the Raiders in rushing with 1294 yards, second highest single season total in Oakland history on 272 carries. He added an additional 403 yards receiving, placing him sixth best in total yards from scrimmage with 1697 yards in the NFL.
His 4.8 yards per carry tied for best in the AFC among running backs. He had six 100 yard games and scored eight touchdowns> He accounted for nine plays of 40 yards or more.
It was this season that he broke Bo Jackson’s single game rushing record by going for 227 yards on 28 carries (8.7 yards per carry) against the Denver Broncos. In that same game he had a career-long run of 83 yards for a touchdown. That was the longest run in the NFL in 1997.
Everything on the football field was going about as well as it could but what was happening off the field was even more exciting to Napoleon. Being ordained to preach found him traveling all over to spread the gospel. This was what he was born to do.
A glimpse at Napoleon’s Heart:
1999 was the first year that Tyrone Wheatly came to the Raiders and it was also about that time that God started to deal with me about being selfish. I’m telling you, God really dealt with me!
I had always been the number one guy and here all of a sudden I’m Tyrone’s backup. That took some getting used to. It was a tough year in football with the injuries and all, but in my Christian life things were moving along wonderfully.As I gave it to the Lord I began to see the lesson that He had for me. It was not only for my growth as a Christian, but it somehow brought Tyrone and me closer together and I was able to see God working in his life. Praise God!
I appreciate Mr. Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders for all the support he gave me over the years that I was with the team. I continued to play for the entire year of 2000 but was starting to feel that the days were numbered.
Then it happened. I woke up, wide awake about five o’clock in the morning and I felt that God was telling me to retire. …In the morning the Raiders had an organized team activity… so I went down and practiced with the team and had a wonderful time with the guys. Then when Jon Gruden got up and started writing the X’s and O’s on the blackboard, I just knew for sure! My time was near. I went out and had a great day of practice, and my knee felt really good.. but my heart was just not in the game anymore.